The Digital Elevation Expertise Program (DEEP), developed for North Island College by local entrepreneur and digital specialist Serena Neumerschitsky, has been deemed a smashing success.
DEEP is a relevant, accessible online training program that provided participants with in-demand expertise in the new age of the digital economy. Participants learned about digital branding, communications, marketing, and online sales of products and services and are now equipped to master sought-after skills required by employers in our region.
Neumerschitsky agreed to an interview with the North Island Gazette about how she developed the program.
How did you come up with DEEP?
When designing for large corporations like MEC, Cannondale, Canadian Tire, Atmosphere, Sport Chek, and Bootlegger there was always a formula and general expectation in regards to brands, brand packaging, and all-around existence both physically in the design of the product and digitally in the presence of the company – when working on niche collaborations like apparel for the Vancouver Canucks, Pride Day Packages with Telus, or the design and development of North Island Cannabis, this formula remained consistent for getting your brand/business/project out to the masses.
When I moved to Port Hardy four years ago, happy to be back to my rural island roots after having spent the last decade in the Vancouver mecca, I sincerely struggled to find community, events, or even stores in my local area – I really felt like if you weren’t “in the know” there was no way to know who or what or when or how.
The reality is large corporations have the marketing budgets to hire entire companies to create this digital brand and presence for them… I love Port Hardy, this is my home, as the population increases it’s only a matter of time before corporate competition comes for each and every one of these hard working rural entrepreneurs – this is the nature of business, and I want to see other rural small businesses be put on the map and thrive without hefty marketing budgets and overhead, before too much of this big business displacement gets a chance to flourish.
What was the process like getting it approved?
Much like the processes of creating North Island Cannabis, it was a “cart before the horse” mentality – you essentially need to have your framework and course of action completely mapped out, basically completed, before approvals are anywhere near a go. It’s a combination of having a clear idea of what you’re doing and how you’re going to do it – but also being flexible enough to meet whatever framework is necessary for the application. That, and you need an incredible team of collaborators – something that I’ve been lucky enough to have in ample supply.
Any favourite memories from the 10 week course?
Plenty, so I’ll try and sum it up:
The relationship between mentor and mentee is something I have been gifted with from the incredible women and instructors that I have/had in my life, and I only wish to mirror that gift to others who are eager to unleash their potential – be it me watching one student with increased weekly sales, one starting a business with a friend, one feeling confident enough to enroll in a new tech class, one getting that job they really wanted, or one overcoming their fear of failure by simply not giving up; it all came down to being proud of their growth both personally and professionally, and being honoured to be a safe space for them to learn and share.
What do you feel you achieved with DEEP?
I hope, and only my students can contest to this, that through creating a new form of education I have also achieved promoting a new way of educating. Dare I be so bold as to say that post secondary education is, more often than not, a classist divide; an opportunity primarily offered to those who can afford the luxury of learning – that our educational system was founded on the desire to train people to sit monotonously for long hours while obeying the proverbial “talking-head” – surely one hundred years later we can opt to do things differently, respect each learner’s individuality, and show the worth of “learning how to learn” be it in a classroom or of your own free will; I thrive and strive to machete that path.
What does the future of the program look like?
We’re currently teaching DEEP in the Campbell River region, with plans to bring it to other rural communities very soon, grants pending of course – we are finalizing a textbook I’ve produced as a hands-on resource for the students, and businesses, to carry the digital identity formula forward during and after the course – we’re looking at adding an additional business focused cohort to go over the basics of digital identities – and we are also working on including a paid practicum at the end of the 10 week program to bring the students closer to the small business community while generating an income and helping those small businesses be put on the map.
In an idealistic world it’s a win-win for every single one of us and I’m happy to keep my head in the clouds, after all, the pressure is low and the view is stunning.
The student perspective
Samantha Machan is a DEEP graduate who is currently working with the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce as a marketing intern. She said that everyone who took the course was presented with the opportunity to apply for the position, “and I was thankful to be chosen.”
Machan noted she really enjoyed the DEEP program, adding that although it was just a beginner course into digital marketing, “the content was very knowledgeable and well structured. Our instructor Serena always made sure to provide us with alternate resources to allow us to dig deeper into each topic.”
She added her favourite memory from the course was their “Thursday BlueJeans meetings. We all got along really well and had some good laughs.”
As far as how the program was overall, Machan said it gave her the essential knowledge to start up her own marketing business and she is “thankful to have since been given the opportunity to work with the Port Hardy Chamber of Commerce.”
Another student who took the DEEP program, Gabriel from Sointula, said the program was “the perfect combination of skills development, mentorship, and additional learning through a cohort setting. I feel I went from artist to solopreneur in 10 weeks! I am now equipped with all the tools I need to showcase my designs online.”
She noted she really enjoyed “the weekly cohort sessions, but my favorite memory was when I needed to add code to my website for Google analytics. I realized I had enough confidence and understanding to tackle it, and it was the moment I broke through my technological barriers. I went from learning skills, to truly enjoying the digital design and creation process. I realized going digital could be fun, inspiring and creative.”
As far as how the program was overall, Gabriel added the program offered “so many levels of information, it was perfectly structured to add a new layer of skill each week. This combined with the mentorship and knowledge of the instructor, has provided new opportunities and skills that are useful in a variety of work environments. I have just launched my second collection Artefact, and am working on my new collection for the fall. What used to be a technological barrier, is now an inspiring and creative process.”
Check out Gabriel’s online studio at sednadesigns.com.